..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Small Kindnesses and Onions on Pentecost Sunday

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday and I spent the
day waiting. Today I thought about what it
must have felt like for the disciples to wait
as Jesus told them to. Waiting is so hard.
And what exactly were they waiting for?
They had no real idea.

Oh, I totally "get" what they must have
been feeling. I, too, am in a season of
waiting: waiting at the command of the
Lord. Dear Lord, waiting for what?

So many others are waiting also. God is
watching us as we wait. We are
waiting for Him, and in a way, He is
waiting for us. It is HOW we wait that
matters. In my waiting I can focus on
myself. I can think about how long
it is taking, I can worry, I can feel
sorry, I can predict and prognosticate,
I can, I can. Very tiresome.

Yesterday at church, things felt different.
Like everything in the world rolled to
a stop and I could feel the presence
of everyone there. All bringing their
bags and baggage. All hoping, at least
a little bit. All crying out, or just
plain crying.

It is small kindnesses that matter
as we wait. Small kindnesses touched
me today. We do not know how important
they are. You may have done me, or
someone, a kindness today and not even
known it. God knows.

There is a part in Dostoevsky’s epic
novel, The Brothers Karamazov, about
a woman and an onion, the kind of onion
with the stem still on it.

She was a very wicked woman and she died
and had never done anything kind--not one
kind act or deed. The devils get her and throw
her into the lake of fire.

An angel tries to help her by finding
one good thing that she had done that he could
tell to God. One time she had pulled up an
onion from her garden, and gave it to a
poor woman. God answered: 'You take that
onion then, hold it out to her in the lake,
and let her take hold and be pulled out.
And if you can pull her out of the lake,
let her come to Heaven, but if the onion
breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.'
(You've got to love the Russians!)

The angel ran to the woman and held out the
onion to her. 'Come, catch hold and I'll
pull you out.' (Its nice to have an angel
looking out for you.) He began cautiously pulling
her out. He had almost pulled her out, when
the other sinners in the lake, seeing how she
was being drawn out, began catching hold
of her so they would be pulled out with her.
But she was a very wicked woman and she began
kicking them. 'I'm to be pulled out, not you.
It's my onion, not yours.' As soon as she said
that, the onion broke. And the woman fell into
the lake and she is burning there to this day.

So the angel wept and went away.

Now I know that some of my readers are
Calvinists (and some are Calvinists and don't
know it) and they might say, "God wouldn't
say that, we are not saved by ANY good
deed." Indeed. We are not. But if we belong
to God good deeds will come forth from
us because that is what God's Spirit is like
within our hearts.

There is always more to the point of a
story then getting the theology right!
The Pharisees are proof of that! We can
be so right that we are wrong! We can
be so self-focused that when salvation
comes to us we do not accept it because
others will be saved also, and we are
not fond of them. You know I speak
the truth.

So often, because the world can
be such a challenge, I hear people
saying, "I hope the Lord comes back
soon!" Well, I can't fault that, but
what are we doing until the Lord
comes back? Are we looking to make
sure others will be able to meet the
Lord gladly? Are we waiting together
in a spirit of unity for God's blessing
to fall upon us? Are we tending to
the needs of widows and orphans?
Are we preaching the gospel?

I do not think that we are saved by
giving onions to poor people, but I
do think we are called out of
our hobbit holes to let God save
the world through our onions, and
lots more where that came from.

The day of Pentecost was not a
day for 120 people to have the
party of their life and then go
home and do nothing. Pentecostal
power is saving power for others. The
disciples were accused of being
drunk at 9 o'clock in the morning.

Drunk people don't change the
world. Drunk people don't care
about others. Drunk people don't
give up their lives for the sake
of others.

The power of Pentecost is the
power of kindnesses large and
small. The first Pentecost has
already come! Blessed be He!
But there are times of out-pourings,
times and seasons in God.
We are in a waiting time, and
we are desperately groaning for a new
season to break forth.

What shall we do while we
are waiting? We are already
to start with small kindnesses,
empowered to look around and
care. Empowered to be
doers of the word, and not
sleepers or whiners or envious
of the salvation of another.
Which end of the onion are you

We are all together as we wait.
We may not always like that idea.
But it is God's idea, and marvelous
in His eyes. We have been called
together for good.

May we look around and see what
small thing we can do for another,
for really it is not so small. Do that
small thing with the same
determination that you would
if it were an onion held down from
heaven inviting you to climb up.

It is.

If your blessings are only
for you they are small blessings
indeed. Work with God for what
is on His Heart: bringing the
whole world to know His Love.
Let Him do the big kindnesses--
you start by doing small ones.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is
fighting a hard battle."--Plato

and better yet:

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God,
holy and beloved, bowels of mercies,
kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness,
longsuffering; Forbearing one another,
and forgiving one another, if any man
have a quarrel against any: even as
Christ forgave you, so also do ye."
(Colossians 3:12,13)

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